For a lot of us, it happens every weekend. For others, it’s every single night. You’ve been so busy with work, appointments, shuttling the kids to school and ball practice, paying bills, and running errands, that you’re completely stressed out and desperately need to relax. So you pick up some takeout, swing by the grocery store for some ice cream, and maybe grab some chips or popcorn while you’re at it. Then you retreat to your safe haven, your living room sofa, turn on Netflix and open up that takeout.
Pretty soon you’ve downed 4,000 calories and you’re feeling stuffed. You regret it, but it’s going to happen again next weekend, or maybe tomorrow. Eating is one of your few coping mechanisms, and it’s so hard to resist the allure of your favorite foods.
But of course, you know that binge eating can cause weight gain and related health problems. So how do you put a stop to this bad habit?
Identify the patterns.
Think about this issue when you’re calm, relaxed, and not hungry. Do you binge eat when you’re stressed? Do you justify it somehow, by saying you’ll work out tomorrow (but you rarely do) or it’s just a rough week but next week will be better (but next week isn’t better)? Do you binge eat only on weekends, or on stressful work nights? Before you can change the behavior you need to understand when and why it occurs.
Replace the behavior.
Now that you know why you binge eat, brainstorm a list of other things you can try when those feelings surface. If you eat when you’re bored, maybe you can call a friend or go window shopping. If you eat when you’re stressed or sad, perhaps you could exercise, take a yoga class, or find a creative outlet that you enjoy. One tactic won’t work for everyone, so make a list of ideas that appeal to you, and give each of them a fair shot.
Hack your habits.
For some people, binge eating is a habit. You might not plan to overeat; it just happens. If that sounds familiar, you need to find ways to change up your habits so that these “accidents” can’t happen anymore. Change your route home so that you don’t drive past that ice cream place you can’t resist. Don’t eat in front of the computer or TV, because you aren’t paying attention to how much you’re eating. Serve yourself a reasonable portion of dinner, and put the rest in the fridge. You get the picture. You gotta outsmart yourself!
And of course, if you’re really struggling with your eating habits, it might be difficult to change those patterns yourself. Schedule an appointment with a counselor, who can help you identify the reasons you overeat. Then, together you can figure out a solution that helps you overcome this dangerous pattern.